To Agreeably Disagree: Two Catholic Voices in Modern American Public Life

It would appear that we will simply have to agree to disagree agreeably about your report on the Synod. 

             George Higgins to Richard Neuhaus, April 26, 1986


Monsignor George Higgins and Father Richard Neuhaus, two Catholic priests and prominent leaders in American life in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century, disagreed on many matters.  Higgins’ above comment came in the midst of their conflict over the teaching authority held by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.  Neuhaus believed the 1985 Synod held in Rome to evaluate Vatican II reforms suggested a curtailment of that authority, while Higgins disagreed with him that it made any suggestion of that.  The two men also disagreed on the meanings of a variety of Catholic teachings related to the economy, conservative politics, and labor unions.  They never stopped corresponding when both were alive, however, and their dialogue offers a window into how two different Catholic public figures viewed the same world during their time.          

Religion and public life in the United States have always been entangled, as much as some might want to see religion as an exclusively private matter ideally practiced outside of public life, or if in public, in ways that rest outside of the purview of political life.  Nonetheless, religious belief often informs individuals’ public positions on a variety of matters.  This means that one’s religious views can clash with public and political policies and happenings.  This site draws correspondence and writings from two collections, the newly-acquired papers of Father Richard John Neuhaus and the papers of Monsignor George Gilmary Higgins to illuminate the ways these two Catholic priests engaged with public and political life as well as with each other in the late-twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. 



American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives: Maria Mazzenga